John David Jackson (physicist)

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John David Jackson
Jackson textbook (cropped).jpg
Jackson autographing a copy of his classical electrodynamics textbook
Born(1925-01-19)January 19, 1925
DiedMay 20, 2016(2016-05-20) (aged 91)
Alma mater University of Western Ontario
AwardsHon. D.Sc., University of Western Ontario, 1989
Scientific career
FieldsNuclear physics
Particle physics
Institutions MIT
McGill University
University of Illinois
University of California, Berkeley
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Doctoral advisor Victor Frederick Weisskopf
Doctoral students Gordon L. Kane
Chris Quigg

John David Jackson (January 19, 1925 – May 20, 2016) [1] [2] was a Canadian–American physics professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and a faculty senior scientist emeritus at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A theoretical physicist, he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and is well known for numerous publications and summer-school lectures in nuclear and particle physics, as well as his widely-used graduate text on classical electrodynamics. [3] The book is notorious for the difficulty of its problems, and its tendency to treat non-obvious conclusions as self-evident. Jackson's high standards and admonitory vocabulary are the subject of an amusing memorial volume by his son Ian Jackson. [4]

Physics Study of the fundamental properties of matter and energy

Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its motion and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.

University of California, Berkeley Public university in California, USA

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), commonly referred to as Berkeley Lab, is a United States national laboratory that conducts scientific research on behalf of the United States Department of Energy (DOE). It is located in the Berkeley Hills near Berkeley, California, overlooking the main campus of the University of California, Berkeley. It is managed and operated by the University of California.



Born in London, Ontario, Canada, Jackson attended the University of Western Ontario, receiving a B.Sc. in honors physics and mathematics in 1946. He went on to graduate study at MIT, where he worked under Victor Frederick Weisskopf, completing his Ph.D. thesis in 1949. [5]

London, Ontario City in Ontario, Canada

London is a city in southwestern Ontario, Canada along the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor. The city had a population of 383,822 according to the 2016 Canadian census. London is at the confluence of the Thames River, approximately 200 km (120 mi) from both Toronto and Detroit; and about 230 km (140 mi) from Buffalo, New York. The city of London is a separated municipality, politically separate from Middlesex County, though it remains the county seat.

University of Western Ontario public research university located in London, Ontario, Canada

The University of Western Ontario (UWO), corporately branded as Western University as of 2012 and commonly shortened to Western, is a public research university in London, Ontario, Canada. The main campus is on 455 hectares of land, surrounded by residential neighbourhoods and the Thames River bisecting the campus's eastern portion. The university operates twelve academic faculties and schools. It is a member of the U15, a group of research-intensive universities in Canada.

Academic career

Jackson held academic appointments successively at McGill University, thanks to Philip Russell Wallace, a prominent Canadian theoretical physicist, (January 1950 – 1957); then the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (1957–1967); and finally the University of California, Berkeley (1967–1995). At McGill, he was Assistant and Associate Professor of Mathematics; at Illinois and Berkeley, he was in the Physics Departments. At the latter, he held appointments on campus and at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. After retiring from teaching in 1993, he continued to be active at LBNL.

McGill University English-language university in Montreal, Quebec

McGill University is a public research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was established in 1821 by royal charter, granted by King George IV. The university bears the name of James McGill, a Montreal merchant originally from Scotland whose bequest in 1813 formed the university's precursor, McGill College.

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign public research university in Urbana and Champaign, Illinois, United States

The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a public research university in Illinois and the flagship institution of the University of Illinois System. Founded in 1867 as a land-grant institution, its campus is located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana.

McGill and Princeton

At McGill in the 1950s, in addition to appreciable teaching, Jackson found time for research on atomic processes and nuclear reactions at intermediate energies and the beginnings of his book on classical electricity and magnetism.

While on leave at Princeton University, he found a fruitful collaboration with Sam Treiman and H. W. Wyld on weak interactions, particularly the various observable decay correlations in allowed nuclear beta decay involving the electron's momentum, its spin, the neutrino's momentum, and the nuclear spin that provide information about parity conservation or non-conservation and time reversal conservation or not. [6] [7] He also published an early paper on the then recently discovered muon-catalyzed fusion of hydrogen isotopes. [8] [9]

Princeton University University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.

Sam Bard Treiman was an American theoretical physicist who produced research in the fields of cosmic rays, quantum physics, plasma physics and gravity physics. He made contributions to the understanding of the weak interaction and he and his students are credited with developing the so-called standard model of elementary particle physics. He was a Higgins professor of physics at Princeton University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and member of the JASON Defense Advisory Group. He was a student of Enrico Fermi and John Alexander Simpson Jr. Treiman published articles on quantum mechanics, plasmas, gravity theory, condensed matter and the history of physics.

Beta decay decay where electrons (β-, beta minus) or positrons (β+, positron emission) are emitted

In nuclear physics, beta decay (β-decay) is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta ray is emitted from an atomic nucleus. For example, beta decay of a neutron transforms it into a proton by the emission of an electron accompanied by an antineutrino, or conversely a proton is converted into a neutron by the emission of a positron with a neutrino, thus changing the nuclide type. Neither the beta particle nor its associated (anti-)neutrino exist within the nucleus prior to beta decay, but are created in the decay process. By this process, unstable atoms obtain a more stable ratio of protons to neutrons. The probability of a nuclide decaying due to beta and other forms of decay is determined by its nuclear binding energy. The binding energies of all existing nuclides form what is called the nuclear band or valley of stability. For either electron or positron emission to be energetically possible, the energy release or Q value must be positive.

Illinois (1957–1967) and CERN (1963–64)

While at the University of Illinois (1957–1967) Jackson initially continued work on weak interactions as well as strange particle interactions at low energy with Wyld and others. On sabbatical leave at CERN in 1963–64, he collaborated with Kurt Gottfried on production and decay of unstable resonances in high-energy hadronic collisions. [10] They introduced the use of the density matrix to connect production mechanisms to the decay patterns and described the influence of competing processes ("absorption") on the reactions. [11]

CERN International organization which operates the worlds largest particle physics laboratory

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Established in 1954, the organization is based in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border and has 23 member states. Israel is the only non-European country granted full membership. CERN is an official United Nations Observer.

Kurt Gottfried is professor emeritus of physics at Cornell University, known for his work in the areas of quantum mechanics and particle physics. He is also a co-founder with Henry Way Kendall of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He has written extensively in the areas of physics and arms control.

During this period Jackson lectured at three summer schools—on dispersion relations at the first Scottish Universities Summer School in Physics, 1960; on weak interactions at the Brandeis Summer Institute, 1962; and on particle and polarization decay distributions at the Summer School of Theoretical Physics, Les Houches, 1965. He also published three books, one on particle physics, based on lectures at the Canadian Summer School in Edmonton and Jasper, 1957; [12] the second, a small book on mathematics for quantum mechanics (1962), and the third, also in 1962, the first edition of his text on classical electrodynamics. [3]

Les Houches Commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Les Houches is a commune in the Haute-Savoie department and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France.

Particle physics Branch of physics

Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the nature of the particles that constitute matter and radiation. Although the word particle can refer to various types of very small objects, particle physics usually investigates the irreducibly smallest detectable particles and the fundamental interactions necessary to explain their behaviour. By our current understanding, these elementary particles are excitations of the quantum fields that also govern their interactions. The currently dominant theory explaining these fundamental particles and fields, along with their dynamics, is called the Standard Model. Thus, modern particle physics generally investigates the Standard Model and its various possible extensions, e.g. to the newest "known" particle, the Higgs boson, or even to the oldest known force field, gravity.


Moving to Berkeley in 1967, Jackson taught on campus, did his research at LBNL, and served in administrative positions at both (Chair, UCB Physics Department, 1978–1981; Head, LBNL Physics Division, January 1982 – June 1984). In the formative years of the ill-fated Superconducting Super Collider project, he served as deputy director of operations of the SSC Central Design Group that did the R&D culminating on the 20 TeV design accepted by President Reagan in 1987.

In the 1960s and 1970s his research alone and with students focused in journal publications and conference papers on models of high energy processes, radiative and resolution corrections for resonances in electron–positron annihilation, spin-flip synchrotron radiation and the polarization of electrons in a storage ring, and, after November 1974, the spectroscopy of the charm–anticharm particles. In 1973, he lectured again at the Scottish Universities Summer School, on hadronic interactions at high energies, and in 1976 at the SLAC Summer Institute, on charmonium spectroscopy. [13] In 1973–74 he ran the nascent theory group at Fermilab and co-edited the proceedings of the 1973 "Rochester" Conference.

In January 1977 Jackson began a 17-year stint as Editor of Annual Review of Nuclear and Particle Science . In much of the 1980s he was involved with many others in the high-energy physics community in activities aimed at the next step up in accelerators. Then in 1983 he became active in the R&D for the SSC, and on the program advisory committee for the SSC Laboratory, when it began in Texas in 1988.

Retirement years

Jackson retired from teaching in May 1995, but retained his connection with LBNL. In the 1990s and beyond his time was increasingly devoted to semi-historical talks and publications on a variety of topics, with a foray into refuting suggestions that cancer may be caused by environmental radiation stemming from ubiquitous electronics use. [14] Noteworthy are a continuing series of papers in the American Journal of Physics on diverse topics in electromagnetism, including rebuttals of mistaken ideas. History of physics publications include the historical roots of gauge invariance, [15] examples of the misattribution of discoveries in physics, [16] and the editing of a sequel to R. T. Birge's history of the Berkeley Physics Department. [17]


Among his students at McGill, Hubert Reeves, a Master's student, went on to international prominence as an astrophysicist in France. John T. Donohue (now in Bordeaux, France) and Gordon L. Kane (University of Michigan) stand out among his Ph.D. students at Illinois. The Berkeley trio, Bob Cahn (LBNL), Rick Field (University of Florida), and Chris Quigg (Fermilab), are prominent particle theorists.

Memberships and honors

Jackson was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1956, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. [18] In 1989, he received an Honorary D. Sc. from his alma mater, the University of Western Ontario. In 2009, in recognition of his own contributions to classroom teaching and his influential textbook, the American Association of Physics Teachers created the "J. D. Jackson Award for Excellence in Graduate Education," with the first award in February 2010 to Eugene Commins.

Related Research Articles

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Positronium (Ps) is a system consisting of an electron and its anti-particle, a positron, bound together into an exotic atom, specifically an onium. The system is unstable: the two particles annihilate each other to predominantly produce two or three gamma-rays, depending on the relative spin states. The orbit and energy levels of the two particles are similar to that of the hydrogen atom. However, because of the reduced mass, the frequencies of the spectral lines are less than half of the corresponding hydrogen lines.

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The tau (τ), also called the tau lepton, tau particle, or tauon, is an elementary particle similar to the electron, with negative electric charge and a spin of 1/2. Together with the electron, the muon, and the three neutrinos, it is a lepton. Like all elementary particles with half-integer spin, the tau has a corresponding antiparticle of opposite charge but equal mass and spin, which in the tau's case is the antitau. Tau particles are denoted by
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  1. John Jackson. "John Jackson Obituary - Lansing, MI | Lansing State Journal". Retrieved 2019-06-22.
  2. Chris Quigg [@chrisquigg] (22 May 2016). "J. D. Jackson, meticulous scholar, revered teacher, master of Classical Electrodynamics, my mentor, & very fine person, has died at 91. RIP" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  3. 1 2 Jackson, J. D. (1998) [1962]. Classical Electrodynamics (3rd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN   978-0-471-30932-1. OCLC   535998.
  4. Jackson, Ian (2016). Mathein Pathein: a thesaurus of the idiolect of John David Jackson (1925-2016). Berkeley: Ian Jackson Books.
  5. Jackson, J. D.; Blatt, J. M. (1950). "The interpretation of low energy proton–proton scattering". Reviews of Modern Physics . 22 (1): 77–118. Bibcode:1950RvMP...22...77J. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.22.77.
  6. Jackson, J. D., Treiman, S. B., and Wyld, H. W. (1957). "Possible tests of time reversal invariance in beta decay". Physical Review . 106 (3): 517–521. Bibcode:1957PhRv..106..517J. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.106.517.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. Jackson, J. D., Treiman, S. B., and Wyld, H. W. (1957). "Coulomb corrections in allowed beta transitions". Nuclear Physics . 4: 206–212. Bibcode:1957NucPh...4..206J. doi:10.1016/0029-5582(87)90019-8.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. Alvarez, L. W.; Crawford, F.; et al. (1957). "Catalysis of nuclear reactions by µ mesons". Physical Review . 105 (3): 1127–1128. Bibcode:1957PhRv..105.1127A. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.105.1127.
  9. Jackson, J. D. (1957). "Catalysis of nuclear reactions between hydrogen isotopes by negative mu-mesons". Physical Review . 106 (2): 330–339. Bibcode:1957PhRv..106..330J. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.106.330.
  10. Gottfried, K.; Jackson, J. D. (1964). "On the connection between production mechanism and decay of resonances at high energy". Nuovo Cimento . 33 (2): 309–330. Bibcode:1964NCim...33..309G. doi:10.1007/BF02750195.
  11. Gottfried, K.; Jackson, J. D. (1964). "Influence of absorption due to competing processes on peripheral reactions". Nuovo Cimento . 34 (3): 735–752. Bibcode:1964NCim...34..735G. doi:10.1007/BF02750013.
  12. Jackson, J. D. (1958). The Physics of Elementary Particles. Princeton University Press. LCCN   58013935. OCLC   536207.
  13. Jackson, J. D. (1976). "Lectures on the new particles" (PDF). SLAC Report. 198: 147–202. Bibcode:1976slac.conf....2.
  14. Jackson, J. D. (1992). "Are stray 60 Hz electromagnetic fields associated with the distribution and use of electric power a significant cause of cancer?". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . 89 (8): 3508–3510. Bibcode:1992PNAS...89.3508J. doi:10.1073/pnas.89.8.3508. PMC   48897 . PMID   1565645.
  15. Jackson, J. D.; Okun, L. B. (2001). "Historical roots of gauge invariance". Reviews of Modern Physics . 73 (3): 663–680. arXiv: hep-ph/0012061 . Bibcode:2001RvMP...73..663J. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.73.663.
  16. Jackson, J. D. (2008). "Examples of the zeroth theorem of the history of science". American Journal of Physics . 76 (8): 704–719. arXiv: 0708.4249 . Bibcode:2008AmJPh..76..704J. doi:10.1119/1.2904468.
  17. Helmholz, A. C. (2004). Jackson, J. D. (ed.). History of the Physics Department, University of California, Berkeley, 1950–1968. University of California, Berkeley, Department of Physics. Contains more recent information in appendices.
  18. John David Jackson – John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Archived 2013-09-03 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading